SYCAMORE – Bill Becker knows his 16U Kishwaukee Valley Storm are going to fail at times.
He’s a little tired of finishing second at the Storm Dayz tournament at Sycamore Park, which they did for the third time Sunday, but Becker doesn’t think winning championships is the mission of a club softball team.
“The trophies are nice and the awards are nice, but that’s not why we’re here,” Becker said. “We’re here to help them develop as players. They learn to execute, and they’ll fail sometimes. Other times they’ll succeed. The goal as we go along is that the successes will become a lot more frequent than the failures.”
After succeeding through three days of their home tournament, the Storm came up short in the championship, losing 2-0 to Big Dog Express.
But the failure wasn’t because of the pitching of Rochelle’s Tracy Ellis, who didn’t allow an earned run in six innings.
The Storm simply couldn’t string together hits, and errors led to a two-run fifth inning for the Express.
“We just couldn’t get our bats going,” Somonauk junior Kayla Brue said. “We played defense, but we just couldn’t get going on runs.”
The Storm reached the championship after putting together a 7-6 comeback victory against the Northern Illinois Thunder in the semifinals. Kishwaukee Valley trailed 4-1 before putting together a six-run sixth inning.
But in the championship, the Storm’s offense stalled, and Becker’s team couldn’t become just the second Kishwaukee Valley Storm team to win their home tournament after the 18U team won last year.
The Storm were able to qualify for the national championships by finishing second. They’ll head to Minneapolis in July to take part in the tournament.
That’ll give Becker extra time to help his players work on the fundamentals of softball, tools that are easier to teach during a year-round season.
“It’s actually a huge confidence booster,” Sycamore junior Tristyn Criswell said. “A lot of us play a lot better than we do during high school season, and that carries over.”
And eventually, Becker hopes his athletes catch the eye of college coaches. That’s especially important for athletes such as Brue, who comes from a smaller program.
“It’s about player development,” said Becker, who also coaches at Kishwaukee College. “These are girls that play high school varsity, but they also want to play in college. This gives them the opportunity to work on their skills and develop them in live situations, and hopefully then get seen by college coaches.”